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New moms need to put their newborns on a routine for their own good and that of their babies. There is a misconception that routines for newborns are meant to make things better for new moms only. This is far from true.
A daily routine for a newborn baby is meant to ensure they get their needs met perfectly. A baby’s needs are simple i.e., enough food, play, and sleep. However, it’s a daunting task for new moms to establish what is required, when it is required, and in what quantities.
Any imbalances in the food, play, and sleep that a newborn gets results in numerous problems ranging from malnutrition to erratic sleep-wake patterns and excessive irritability. New moms who try to bring up their children without a routine face serious challenges. They rarely have enough sleep and may suffer from intense irritability and postpartum depression.
In simple terms, the essence of a daily routine for your newborn is for the good of the baby and the mom. The needs of the newborn and the mother are best met when there is order. However, how do you begin establishing a routine and maintaining one?
Understand the different types of routines
Understanding the types of baby routines is critical to establishing and maintaining a routine. There are three main options based on who leads the routine i.e., baby-led, parent-lend, and a combination of both.
BABY-LED NEWBORN ROUTINE: As the name suggests, the baby takes the lead, and the parent follows. The baby decides when to feed, play or rest and the parent follows the cue. Obviously, the parent will decide in many instances for the baby. However, feeding, sleeping, and playing isn’t generally imposed or strict. Contrary to popular belief, baby-led routines aren’t completely unpredictable.
Babies develop a regular pattern for feeding, sleeping, and playing in a few weeks. However, it may change sometimes. If you don’t mind following your baby’s lead, a baby-led routine may work for you.
PARENT-LED NEWBORN ROUTINE: This type of routine is the one endorsed and discussed by parenting expert, Gina Ford. Parent-led schedules are strict and meant to establish a favorable sleep, feed, and playing time for the baby that coincides with a healthy routine for the mom. Parent-led newborn baby schedule and routine enthusiasts suggest that this method is beneficial for both the baby and the mom.
This is the case because the goal is ensuring a baby’s schedule is predictable to the extent that the mom can rest and be in a better position to meet the baby’s needs and attend to other things with ease i.e., work after maternity leave.
What’s more, the baby is able to sleep longer with time to the extent of sleeping throughout the night in a few months.
However, establishing a parent-led routine requires unmatched planning down to every minute of the day and following the routine consistently. It may also take some unconventional methods like shortening a baby’s naps during the day so that they can sleep more at night.
PARENT-LED + BABY-LED NEWBORN ROUTINE: This combination borrows from both baby-led and parent-led methods. This method is less strict, with adjustments like nap times being pushed if a baby doesn’t show signs of sleepiness. Feeds can also be postponed, unlike in the parent-led where feeding and naps are ultimately structured to allow the baby to sleep longer at night. British nurse, Tracy Hogg, is a well-known advocate of this method.
If you are here to learn how to start and maintain a newborn routine, you are probably interested in the parent-led method or a combination. Here’s everything to know about starting and sustaining a routine.
When should I put my newborn on a routine?
Renowned experts like British maternity nurse and parenting expert, Gina Ford who has authored popular books on parenting, among them being them being a book on the secrets to establishing a newborn routine, offers a routine that begins a week after birth. Other parenting experts like Tracy Hogg, Author of Baby Whisperer , offer a loose routine that starts at birth.
Whichever approach you choose, put the interests of the baby first. This means following a schedule while taking the pediatrician’s advice seriously and following your own gut feeling/common sense when determining what is best for your baby. With that said, here’s how to begin and
maintain a healthy daily routine for a newborn baby.
Guide to putting your newborn on a routine: Newborn baby schedule and routine Learn your baby
You should start researching on newborns long before your baby is born. Newborn parenting experts like Gina Ford have made the process simple through their books. You can learn your baby in a few days after reading Gina Ford’s book on the secrets to being a calm and confident new mom. Gina Ford gives the basics of what to expect at every stage from birth.
Establishing when your baby is tired and hungry is the first step to establishing a routine as it lets you know what the baby wants/needs. While newborns may seem to have erratic needs, a pattern starts to emerge if you are observant, and you can predict with reasonable accuracy when they will be hungry, sleepy, etc. Feeding them just before they start being grumpy is a great way to avoid frustration. There are many other basics that you will learn through observation. For instance, newborns tend to cry because of specific things, among them being sleep, hunger, or discomfort from a dirty diaper.
Establish a sleep routine
One of the most challenging things new moms grapple with is establishing a predictable sleep pattern for their baby so that they can also get some much-deserved rest. To do this, newborns must be taught when it’s time for sleeping.
The first step is teaching the baby the difference between day and night. Since babies take naps during the day, it’s important to establish a good atmosphere for daytime naps.
For instance, every time a daytime nap is due, which is typically after an hour or so, you should settle your baby in their room, which should be dark and quiet. While takes some time for a baby to associate a dark and quiet room with sleep, he/she will eventually learn.
When it’s time for their longest nap at night, a schedule such as bathing then at the same time daily and changing clothes is important. Bathing your newborn and taking care of the umbilical is a skill you’ll have to learn fast. The same applies to learning the best baby sleep tips.
You should also avoid stimulating your baby with stares and talking when it’s time to nap. During the day, purpose to have a bright and active house to teach your newborn when it’s time to stay awake.
A sleep routine should be established from the day they are brought home. As mentioned above, it will take time for a baby to transition and sleep longer at night, depending on many factors, including how strict you are when winding down your baby for naps. The key is to eliminating confusion between day and night as well as nap-time and playtime.
Beware of changes in routine during growth milestones
You should expect changes in routine during growth milestones. For instance, if you do everything Gina Ford suggests while incorporating your pediatrician’s advice and your own common sense, your baby should be able to sleep longer at night in a few weeks and throughout the night in a few months.
However, consistency may be interrupted for a few days when the baby is going through a growth spurt. You should expect the baby to have erratic sleep patterns a few days when they are going through developmental milestones from sitting to teething, weaning, crawling, etc.
However, they’ll go right back to their routine after such milestones have been reached. Expect growth spurts at two, three, and six weeks as well as three and six months. During this period, your baby may wake up multiple times at night or sleep longer. He/she may also be hungrier than usual.
Moms are expected to feel disheartened when the routine they worked so hard to create isn’t working during growth spurts. However, developmental milestones are 100% normal and stay for several days at most.
Adjust routine with age
Once your baby is on a predictable sleeping, feeding, and playing routine, you may be tempted to hold on to it forever. That shouldn’t be the case. As your baby grows older, their needs change.
For instance, in a few months, they should begin sleeping less and playing more. You will have to drop some feeds and naps as time goes by.
It’s worth noting that a daily routine for a newborn baby won’t be perfect. As mentioned above, there will be inconsistencies, mostly during growth spurts. You should expect and plan for such changes. Your baby may occasionally refuse to sleep/eat as planned.
These occurrences may be one-offs or run for several days due to a growth milestone or other issues. For instance, illness can make it impossible for a baby to follow the normal schedule. The same applies to some vaccines that cause fever and interrupt sleeping patterns.
It may also be hard to keep your baby on a routine during special occasions such as holidays when everyone is around, and the baby is highly stimulated. In such cases, it may be difficult getting the baby to sleep normally because of noise or overstimulation during the day. When this happens, pick up the usual routine as soon as you can i.e., the next day.
However, your baby’s routine should come first, even if it means denying family members access to the baby just before you start winding them down to sleep. You may need to talk to family members to understand that the baby must take their day naps as scheduled and sleep at night at a certain time.
However, make time for everything. Your baby needs to play with family members, friends, fellow children when the time is right. A routine shouldn’t be mistaken to mean you should isolate your baby. Changing things up for a day won’t undo an established routine.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you get stuck. Being a first-time mom can be scary. Establishing a predictable routine is scarier, especially when things aren’t going as planned.
Ask for help from moms who have been able to schedule their babies. You can also turn to other resources like books on newborn baby schedule and routines from authors like Gina Ford.
Examples of what a daily routine for a newborn baby looks like
If you are wondering what a Gina Ford daily routine looks like, here’s a glimpse;
Week 1 to week 2
SLEEPING TIME: Baby should sleep at most 5.5 hours during the day divided into three naps (1.5 hours from 8.30am to 10pm, 2.5 hours from 11.30am to 2pm, and 1.5 hours from 3.30pm to 5pm).
FEEDING TIME: The baby should receive 7 feeds at 7am, 10am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm, 6pm and 10 to 11.15pm. Ideally, the baby should be awake at 7am with a clean diaper before the first feed.
What’s more, newborns shouldn’t stay awake for over 1.5 hours consecutively during the day otherwise, they will start to overtire.
NIGHT ROUTINE: Bathing time coupled with a massage and feeding should be done before 6.15pm. He/she should be ready for bed by 7pm. Feed the baby at 10pm, change the diaper and settle them back to sleep.
Remember, newborns shouldn’t be left to sleep more than 4 hours at night. Feed between 2.30am, and 3.30am. However, formula-fed babies weighing more than 8 pounds can be left to sleep longer (but not exceeding 5 hours).
Week 2 to Week 4
During weeks 2 to 4, you should REDUCE THE DAYTIME NAPS TO A MAXIMUM OF 5 HOURS, provided the baby is sleeping and feeding well. Instead of sleeping from 3.30pm to 5pm, change the sleeping time to 4-5pm.
Week 4 to week 6
Provided the baby is gaining weight as required, remove the 11am feed and push the 4pm nap to last from 4.15pm to 5pm. The baby should sleep a maximum of 4.75 hours during the day.
Week 6 to week 8
The feeds should remain the same as the 4-to-6-week period. However, the daytime nap should reduce to a maximum of 4 hours. The evening nap should be 30 minutes only (4.30 to 5pm).
Week 8 to week 12
The feeds remain the same, but the daytime naps reduce to a maximum of 3.5 hours. The evening nap should last 15 minutes only (4.45 to 5pm).
3months to 4 months
Drop the evening nap. Between months 3 and 4, your baby shouldn’t sleep more than 3 hours during the day to avoid them waking up at night.
Provided the baby is clean, well feed during the day, and well-rested, and they are gaining weight as expected, they should be sleeping throughout the night.
While there’s more to baby sleep routines than what is discussed above, the information should be enough to kickstart a healthy routine that benefits both the baby and the mom.
Most importantly, seek help if you get stuck putting your baby on a routine or any other related issue such as bathing your newborn or taking care of the umbilical cord.